A Tufte-tastic Wednesday

One week after Bob the Intern and I took in Edward Tufte’s one-day course on Presenting Data and Information, I have finally digested the six-hour session enough to put some thoughts down.

Though the focus of the course was on making effective and credible presentations, evaluating evidence used in presentations, creating complex and clear interfaces (or data visualizations), etc., my biggest takeaways were the points made throughout the day that seem the least Tufte-esque.

While speaking about making effective presentations, Tufte focused heavily on establishing credibility as the presenter. He gave tips and pointers on how to do this through presentation style (he still doesn’t like PowerPoint), but more interesting to me, was how much he stressed “don’t lie to your customers.” His disdain for misleading the audience and wasting their time was brought up multiple times through the day. I think this resonated with me so much because I take pride in how open we are with our clients here at Fuzzy Math. I was not expecting to hear that type of advice during the session, but it is something that will stick with me.

Another tidbit he imparted that I keep going back to was his point to put people’s names on the work they do. He talked about how this gives a bit of respect to the person that did the work, but also humanizes the business and individuals behind the curtain. It is a lot like ‘putting a face to name,’ but for companies. We try very hard not to be a faceless company, and this is a tip that we will surely be trying out sooner than later.

Even though those points didn’t seem Tufte-esque to me before I took the course, Tufte completely embodies them both. I can’t think of anyone more qualified and credible to teach the course, and I know the face and name behind “Edward Tufte” more now than ever.

(We also received all four Tufte books, which is great, other than the commute home carrying 30 lbs. of books.)

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